Long weekends are the perfect time to host the type of summer lunch that you can talk over for hours and hours, relaxing into each other's company as the sun slowly moves across the sky.
One person who knows a thing or two about feasts like this is Georgina Hayden, a food writer who grew up above her grandparents' traditional Cypriot taverna in London, helping her yiayia make dips and stews and flaounes. Georgina and her sister would spend Saturdays after Greek school shelling peas and laying tables, filling salt and pepper shakers and getting under their grandmother's feet. The house, she remembers, "was aways filled with people and food."
She goes on to say: "Feasting, family and community is the bedrock not just of my family, but of Cypriot culture." It makes sense, then, that her new recipe book Taverna is packed full of tempting dishes to gather people around the table.
Ahead, she shares two recipes that are perfect to coax your nearest and dearest to your table. Neither is overly complicated, which is kind of the point – the less time you spend cooking in the kitchen, the more time you've got to relax with your guests.
Fish Keftedes In Mustard And Dill
Not an authentic keftedes recipe, but (a hugely popular) one I developed for my half pescatarian family. It combines the Greek love of fritters and meatballs with mustard sauce – a common addition to souvlakia or gyro.
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ a bunch of flat-leaf parsley
100g fresh breadcrumbs
600g white fish fillets – such as cod, haddock or pollock – skinless and boneless
2 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 spring onions
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp French mustard
400ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp capers
½ a bunch of dill
Preheat your oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Grind the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar, then transfer to a food processor. Roughly chop the parsley and add to the processor along with the breadcrumbs, then pulse once. Cut the fish into small chunks, add and blitz until just blended together. Crack in the eggs, season well and pulse once or twice, till everything is just combined. Roll the mixture until small balls, around 3–4cm. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large ovenproof frying pan and place on a medium heat. Fry the fish balls on all sides until golden brown and crisp all over, then spoon onto a plate.
Trim and finely slice the spring onions, peel and finely chop the garlic. Drizzle a little more olive oil into the pan and sauté the spring onions and garlic for 10 minutes on a low heat, then stir in the mustard and crème fraîche. Heat for a couple of minutes, then season and pop the fish balls back in. Scatter over the capers and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Finely chop the dill, scatter over the dish and serve. Perfect with a stack of pita breads and a big chopped salad.
Tomato Braised Peas and Beans: Pizeli Kai Fasolaki Yiahni
I toyed with the idea of putting this in the sides section; however, it is more than filling enough to be a main meal (which is how we eat it), especially when served with all the traditional accompaniments. Like the roasted cauliflower on the previous page, we always have this with fresh Greek bread and pickled caper leaves, plus whole spring onions and a huge bowl of my mum’s dressed tuna – it’s a perfect partnership. Also, I have called this 'pizeli and fazolaki yiahni' as we make it both ways, with peas or green beans, just use whichever you fancy.
600g Maris Piper potatoes
5 ripe tomatoes or a 400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
500ml vegetable stock
600g green beans or 900g fresh or frozen peas
4 large artichoke hearts
Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks, around 5cm. Pour enough olive oil into a large saucepan to fill it by 1cm. Place on a medium heat and fry the potatoes on all sides until brown. Remove from the pan and keep to one side.
Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the onions. Peel and roughly chop the carrots. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them (see page 12), roughly chop and keep to one side. When the potatoes are done, fry the onions and carrots in the same pan for 10 minutes to soften slightly, reducing the heat a little. Stir in the tomato purée, then add the chopped or tinned tomatoes and the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
If using green beans, cut off the tops and roughly chop them in halves and thirds. Roughly chop the artichoke hearts. Stir the beans or peas and artichokes into the tomato sauce with the potatoes. Cover the pan and continue to cook for a further 35–40 minutes, or until the veg are soft and the sauce has thickened – you don’t want it to be watery. Season to taste, and serve with all the accompaniments mentioned above.
Taverna: Recipes From A Cypriot Kitchen by Georgina Hayden is out now on Square Peg
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